by Ardian Wibisono
The COVID-19 pandemic has added more uncertainty to the global economic condition. Gold, which is seen as a safe haven instrument, has been rallying up in price and breaking new records. In Indonesia, the appetite for precious metal remains high, although buyers now shifted their buying habits, from purchasing through the traditional mom-and-pop stores to online outlets. With the changing trend, Ivan Lingga (31) certainly made the right decision when he decided to extend his family’s jewelry business to online commerce four years ago. He saw a growing opportunity from the millennials and younger generation who are more digital-savvy as a potential market to be captured through his ecommerce jewelry company Whizliz (PT Lino Walden Teknologi).
“Shopping behavior has been shifting, and the pandemic acts as a catalyst. We are quite surprised that our month-to-month sales have been growing double. Even at this year’s Eid, people were still buying jewelry. But offline sales are slowly fading as people moved to online, which they feel more secure and practical,” Ivan, Cofounder and CEO of Whizliz, says.
Ivan comes from a family that has been in the jewelry business since 1975. The family company, PT Lotus Lingga Pratama, is one of precious metals. Headquartered in Bandung, the company started as a home industry before setting up a manufacturing plant in 1998. Ivan joined his parents’ company in 2010 after he graduated from his bachelor’s degree in finance from Ohio State University. Currently, he is also the managing director at Lotus Lingga. Shortly after joining, he helped the business grow further, implementing a more professional system, applying ISO, building some brands, and entering the overseas market. The company began exporting jewelry to Hong Kong in 2011. Fast forward, the company now exports to around 50 countries in Asia, the Middle East, and the US. Before the pandemic, the export market accounted for 30% of Lotus Lingga’s sales. Among its noteworthy clients are Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook Group and US-based television home shopping channel QVC. Last year, Lotus Lingga also formed a joint venture with gold miner PT Archi Indonesia owned by Indonesian tycoon Peter Sondakh to produce gold bars under the brand Lotus Archi.
“At first, when I joined in, I thought that I really don’t know anything about jewelry and design, but it turns out the business is so dynamic and also has a finance side. This is a commodity business, so we learn to hedge and the futures, it’s certainly more than just design, distribution, and product development,” he says.
At the end of 2015, when considering to build online retail business for jewelry, Ivan was introduced with Ikin Wirawan, CEO of one of the largest IT services companies in the country, PT Walden Global Services. Both agreed to form a joint venture that created Whizliz in early 2016. Whizliz caters markets aged 18 to 35 years old with the most expensive product listed at Rp 25 million. Ivan says this age group has growing purchasing power and occasions that reason their purpose to buy jewelry like having their first salary, getting engaged, or getting married. Besides selling Lotus Lingga’s brands like Lino & Sons and Aurum, Whizliz also sells products from other companies like Antam. It turns out the business gained good traction. Ivan claims that from 2017 to 2018, his company managed to book 15 folds in revenue compared to the previous year. In 2019, sales grew four folds of the prior year, and this year he expects at least the same growth despite the crisis. On an average month, he says Whizliz typically sells 1,200 pieces of jewelry, which can go up during a particular season like Ramadan, or in the last quarter of the year, when most weddings are held. Ivan says so far the ring with price ranging from Rp 1 million to Rp 1.5 million is the best seller product.
“What differentiates us with the competitor is we offer loyalty points that can be exchanged with gold. We also cut the supply chain since we are backed up by strong jewelry manufacturing company. At other places, customers have to wait about to weeks before the jewelry is sent, but all jewelry on our platform is ready to send within 24 hours,” says Ivan.
Whizliz is also bringing more services to customers. Last month it launched a new mobile app to complement its existing web platform. It also plans to launch customized products, where customers could design their jewelry, at the end of the year. Ivan says the customers’ concern on buying jewelry online is that they want to see how it would look like on them. To solve this, the company is also planning to launch an augmented reality feature, so users can see how a ring would look on their finger or a bracelet on their wrist through a smartphone screen. Currently, Lotus Lingga has a network of distributors across the country. Ivan says he also plans to use this network and adding more retail partners as point-of-service that could help with returns and service, for example. All these plans to add more features to attract more customers are short-term strategies.
For mid and long-term plans, Ivan says once it scales up further, he plans to seek a strategic investor to be a more technology-driven company. Furthermore, he plans to expand to new markets abroad, especially Southeast Asia, where the outlook is also promising. He also aims to bring the company public.
“We are currently targeting a very niche market, but it is something that is scalable,” he says.